Paul Krugman vs. Zombie Fred Hayek
Stan Collender Despairs of the Concord Coalition

Stan Collender: Zombie Budget Politics from the 1970s


GOP Paints Itself into a Corner on the Budget...Again | Capital Gains and Games: Budget-watchers everywhere seem to be asking two questions... whether there’s going to be a federal government shutdown... whether Congressional Republicans have any chance of getting out of the budget corner they’ve painted themselves in without inflicting serious political damage on themselves.

A similarly tough budget situation played out in the late 1970s.... Republican members of the House Budget Committee made it clear year after year to then-Chairman Bob Giaimo (D-Conn.) that there was no way they would vote for any budget resolution that didn’t completely capitulate to GOP demands. Their position forced Giaimo to move to the left with his budget resolutions to win the support of enough Democrats so he could move the bills to the House floor. That gave Democratic Reps. Elizabeth Holtzman of New York (my boss at the time), Parren Mitchell of Maryland and Louis Stokes of Ohio enormous — some might even say undue — influence over the committee’s work.... [T]the GOP always ended up with even less of what it wanted than otherwise would have been the case.

Today’s GOP budget dilemma is similar in many respects to the one it imposed on itself 30-plus years ago. This time the tea party wing of the Republican Party in the House has repeatedly let its own leadership know that a budget compromise is unacceptable.... This has presented Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) with a Giaimo-like choice: Completely capitulate to the tea party or move toward the Democrats to get enough votes to pass a continuing resolution in the House.

But this year’s budget corner is significantly tighter than the one Giaimo was in.... Giaimo knew that the Democratic-controlled Senate would modify his budget resolution and that a conference report with those changes would ultimately be adopted. But based on the budget negotiations and votes that have already taken place this year, Boehner and Cantor have to assume that the Senate and White House won’t accept a tea-party-supported continuing resolution. A government shutdown that might well be blamed on Boehner, Cantor and the Republican Party would then occur.

Giaimo also knew that, no matter what happened on the budget, the Holtzman-Mitchell-Stokes wing of the Democratic Party would work with the Caucus on other issues.... Boehner and Cantor have no such assurances.... Giaimo was fortunate in that he was only dealing with one issue — the budget resolution. Now, however, the GOP leadership has to be very mindful that, by its own choosing, the debate over the continuing resolution will be followed in very short order by difficult debates on two other mega budget issues: the fiscal 2012 budget and an increase in the federal debt ceiling. Moving away from the tea party on the first issue very likely will mean losing it on the other two....

This leads back to the question of whether there will be a government shutdown. If courting Democratic votes for the continuing resolution will cause an angry and potentially irrevocable GOP split on the other budget issues, then going with a tea-party-preferred continuing resolution will be the House GOP leaders’ politically correct choice even if it is more than likely to lead to a shutdown. If a shutdown then demonstrates to the tea party that the no-compromise position is damaging, the leadership might find its way out of that tight budget corner after all.